Category Archives: supporting families

Hope for the new term

With the start of the new term, I am feeling fizzy inside!, it’s not a dread, thankfully I love my job, however, it’s the fizz of expectation with the slight nervousness and unknown of what lies ahead. I am aware that over the last week this feeling has been growing. I usually experience this a little on the return to school. But this year it is a stronger feeling than normal, as we are not in normal times. I haven’t met the new children I will support, I am not totally sure what the new school set up’s will be like, and I am slightly anxious about how children who have been out of a setting for 6 months will feel about starting school.

I am hugely aware that I feel unsure, and this includes slight nagging doubts and questions about will I remember what to do, what happens if a child becomes dis-regulated on my first day in a school, will I remember how to respond. The logical part of my brain kicks in and tells myself this is my work world, I know how to respond, as my 21 yr old daughter this morning reminded me I will automatically say ‘ Wow I can see you are so cross and angry, your face is red and I can see you want to hit, but we don’t hit people’ and then apparently I will play with mud or playdough! ( according to her this sums up my job well!). And I expect she is right.

But if I am feeling fizzy and slightly nervous, then I am pretty certain teachers, headteachers, parents, nursery workers, children and young people across the country are also feeling that slight anxiety, worry, fizziness. We are in different times, this is not just a normal new return, which can be hard for many in ordinary times. This is different, as well as the usual concerns there are of course many anxieties around COVID, safety, and protection, for some they have been away from school or nursery for 6 months, that all complicates our feelings and anxieties.

Knowing that I am feeling like this, I am trying to pay attention to my breathing, spend more time outside noticing and enjoying nature, barefoot walking, and wild swimming, all ways to be extra nurturing to myself.

My hope for the new term is that wellbeing will be high on the agenda, that headteachers and managers will be supporting their own wellbeing and from there they are then able to support their staff wellbeing who are then able to support the children’s wellbeing. Wellbeing needs to underpin this return, it can’t be an add on, it needs to be an embedded approach. But also parents and partners of staff who work in education need to focus on their loved ones’ wellbeing in these next days and weeks. Provide food, hugs (where allowed), chocolate!, a listening ear. This needs to be a joint effort, a joint support package.

How do we support children through transition during COVID 19

lily, summer & mum039

This is a question I and the team I work with have been giving a lot of thought to. I also delivered some training for Wandsworth this week looking at how we can make this work during COVID times.

In ordinary times we would arrange visits to schools/ classes/ nurseries. In ordinary times children would be in school and nursery, however, as we know these are not ordinary times. Below are a few ideas we will be using and I have suggested to Wandsworth they could try.

Videos

During the lockdown, we have all become more competent at making videos. I have suggested to schools and nurseries that they could make a video of the new classroom, to show the children what it will look like, show them any of the key areas you think the children need to know e.g. outdoor space, dining hall, toilets, pegs, carpet time, creative area, toys. Another way to do this is to include the children you have currently in school/ nursery, ask them what they think the new children need to see.

Video of staff, one important part of the children’s transition is for them to meet staff, many settings do home visits and visits to the nursery or the school, allowing the staff and children to meet each other. This may not be possible this year. One suggestion is for the new staff to make a short video of themselves to send to the children, telling them their name, a few things they like to do, how they are looking forward to seeing the child, this will go a long way to help the child feel familiar and in touch. They can also then re-watch this film, helping with that familiarity.

Photos

For some of our children they may not have access to watching videos, as an alternative, you could make a small photo book of the important parts of the school, include photos of the teacher, Ta’s ( nursery staff if it’s a nursery transition), again you could involve the current children in this. Pull these together into a simple PDF document, if possible print them and send them to the children, encourage the parents to look at this over the weeks before they return.

Books and play

During normal times in the weeks running up to transition, settings will be reading stories to children about moving to school, having school uniforms for children to try on, they may be playing games about going to school. These things can still happen, encourage parents to buy the uniform, and let the children try it regularly. There may be an issue about cross-contamination with clothes in the nursery, to get around this have the uniform from the school hanging up or photos of children wearing the uniform, this is all about helping children to recognise, be familiar, with this change and what will be new. You can still read books to children, there are many books available which you could use. Suggest books to parents they could read to their children, if purchasing books is difficult for parents you could film a member of staff reading some of the books and email the video out to families.

Social story

Make a social story about going to school for the children to take home. The social story we use is a simple story about a girl called Lily who is going to school, through the story we ask questions to enable a conversation and discussion. An example of the questions in our story are below:

  • Lily is going to her new school, it is called Camerton primary, where are you going to school?
  •  Lily’s school jumper is blue, what colour will your school jumper be?.
  • Lily is going to school with her friend Megan, which friends are going to your new school?
  • Lily will be going to school on the bike with her Dad, how will you get to school?
  • Lily will be having school lunches at school, she likes eating jacket potato, what will you do at lunchtime?
  • Lily is looking forward to playing with the pirate boat in the classroom, what are you looking forward to at school?
  • Lily is a little bit worried about playtimes, the playground has a big climbing frame and she is a bit scared about that. Does anything worry you about school?

This is a simple tool to design and use, it enables staff or parents to have conversations with the child about the school they are going to and how they are feeling about it. We have a photo on each page of the story to make it more visually appealing. This is just an example that you could adapt.

These are just a few ideas, but hopefully will help you to think of other ways too that we can still support during this transition. 

At the end of July I have a new book being published withJessica Kingsley Publishers, the title is Supporting Young Children Through Change and Everyday Transitions: Practical Strategies for Practitioners and Parents. It has a chapter on the transition to school/nursery, a chapter on bereavement, and another on separation, along with other chapters covering other changes children experience. 

On the re-opening of early years and school.

 

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This week most schools and early years settings are re-opening. There are so many political arguments about this, which I am not going to enter into on this posting. However, I know staff have been working so hard over the last few weeks, to make this the best they can for the children to return. I know staff have been working incredibly hard at organising, preparing, planning, and changing plans as the government keeps changing the guidance. I know that many staff feel that they are having to compromise what they believe is the best practice in order to fit into the new guidance.

I am aware that in all the arguing and political debating we can easily forget that behind all this are many staff, some will be pleased to return, some will be unsure and others will be incredibly scared. Change is so hard, especially when change is happening and we don’t really know what the outcome will be, how long we will be working in this new way, and whether we will all be shut down again.

Working in the time of a crisis, at a time of change and uncertainty, and at a time when many feel fearful and anxious, this brings with it additional stresses on top of an already demanding job in normal times. These are not normal times.

I am writing this blog for my friends and colleagues who are returning this week, and for those of you I don’t know, I am writing to say I am thinking of you, I know this is going to feel hard and maybe scary and to say thank you. Thank you for doing this, thank you for being there for the children, thank you for making it the best you possibly can for the children, because I believe that is what you will do.

Please make sure you take extra time to care for yourself and if anyone is reading this who lives with or is friends with a teacher, TA or early years worker who is returning, be extra kind to them in these weeks, check in on them, buy them chocolate ( or something else they like!), they are going to need it.

May your week go well.

Below are some links which might be useful

Alistair Bryce Clegg  has an excellent blog post with thoughts on returning

I was asked by my local early year’s team to make some short videos for staff about the return to work, staff wellbeing, and children’s wellbeing. They are accessible to all. This is a link to them.

Ideas for families to do at home at times of isolation.

nature card

and my colleagues have just created an ideas sheet of activities to do at home, aimed at the families we support with early years children.  It is a simple list of ideas and suggestions of things they can do at home, these ideas are mostly free or things they hopefully have in the cupboard. I have pasted a copy here in case it is useful for anyone else.

Alistair Bryce Clegg is also collating some fantastic ideas.

Ideas for parents if schools are closed

This is a strange time for everyone. During this time children need reassurance, cuddles, kisses, love and they need parents to play with with them. Here are some ideas from Nurture Outreach team of activities you could do with your children if the schools are closed.

Take a walk, each day if possible. Each day you could decide on looking for different things- day 1 it might be red things, day 2 yellow, day three blue etc. One day you could see how many different coloured things you can collect and then come home and stick them on some paper or card.

Make a den together , you only need a blanket and a chair, you could have a snack whilst in the den, make it cosy with some cushions and a blanket. Share a story in the den.

Have an indoor picnic, put a blanket on the floor, put some plates and cups on the blanket and have a picnic together, imagine where you would like to be, maybe a beach or a jungle.

Have an outdoor picnic-if the weather is good have an outdoor picnic , if you have a garden you could do this in the garden.

Make a picture for a loved one, we are being advised to stay away from older people, this can be sad for everyone. Get your child each week to draw a picture or write a note to someone who is old and staying at home. Post this to them.

Play hoopla Turn a chair upside down, make hoops out of some cardboard, throw the hoops over the legs. Have a point for each leg.

Play shops Give your child some money, together make some price labels , put them on the food in your cupboard. Take it in turns to be the shop keeper and the shopper.

Make an obstacle course- Use furniture to go under, blankets to cover yourself in, hats to put on your head, make this together and take it in turns to use.

Play hide and seek, take it in turns to be the hider and the seeker.

Junk modelling Keep empty boxes and toilet roll inners,  make models and creatures with glue and tape

Plant some seeds If you have a garden plant some seeds together or save old plastic tubs e.g yogurt pots and plant some cress or pea seeds and grow on the window sill. When they have grown put them in a sandwich, you can eat the pea shoots instead of letting them grow into pea plants

Make a treasure map Hide some treasure and make a map for the child to find where it is. You could each do this and make a map for the other person to find the treasure.

Make sock puppets Turn your socks into hand puppets, give your puppet a name and make a story together.

Make a bug house Find some sticks and leaves and a make a bug house, you could leave this at the side of your house or flat and then check on it after a few days to see what bugs are in there.

Dance together Play some music you both like and dance together

Pretend you are an animal game Imagine you are an animal and make the noises and movements for the other person to guess.

Play bubbles Go outside and play bubbles, watch where they are flying, Imagine where they might go.

Play emotion faces Pull a face of an emotion and get your child to guess the emotion. Take it in turns to do this.

Pretend you are at the hair dressers– take it in turns to be the hair dresser, brushing hair, putting clips or bands in, pretend to cut hair ( no scissors, just use your fingers) you could gently give the other person a head massage.Talk about what they would like their hair to be like today.

Play weddings Get toy animals and dolls and pretend two of them are getting married, think about the food they would eat and the dancing they would do.

Make a car/ rocket/ train Use the washing basket or a big box, get your child to decide what vehicle it’s going to be, get them to sit in it and pretend they are going on a journey. Talk about what they can see on their journey. 

Make a fruit salad together  Use tinned, frozen or fresh fruit, chop it up and put it in a bowl, talk about the colours, tastes and textures, enjoy eating it together.

Toast painting

You need

Milk ( or substitute milk) 

Food colouring

White sliced bread 

paint brush

Put a small amount of milk in cups and add a tiny amount of food colouring, this makes home made paint. Each person have a slice of white bread and paint a picture on the bread using your paint, look at your pictures. Toast your bread and enjoy eating the toast.

Make play dough

You need

2 cups plain flour

1/2 cup of salt

2 tablespoon cream of tartar

2 tablespoon oil

1 cup of hot hot water with few drops of food colouring added

Mix everything in a bowl, stir it well and then knead it and play with it. You could get your child to help you make this.  When you have finished put it in an air tight container, it will last for weeks.

Home made bubble mixture

6 cups water

1 cup strong washing up liquid e.g. Fairy

1 table spoon glycerine

Mix gently and use, this makes enough for a big bottle

We hope you have some lovely time playing together. Keep safe and well.

From Sonia, Andy, Sharon, Fred and Ruth